I just finished the book. And I would recommend it as highly as Gladwell’s The Tipping Point and Blink, and Pink’s A Whole New Mind. Johnson challenged some of my own presumptions – and caused me to question some of the decisions Imbi and I have made regarding video games, TV and our children.
As I’ve said elsewhere in this blog, when our oldest (now 18) was seven we put a three month moratorium on TV for our three kids. It lasted for most of their childhood. We watched a couple of hours of TV weekly, together as a family and the kids had access to kids movies and other forms of taped TV entertainment. All three quickly became avid readers and have also developed their musical skills. They had a Playstation which they used in fits and starts & Liam and Rylan did become adept at playing Age of Empires on a PC.
I subscribed to Postman’s theory of us Amusing Ourselves To Death. I bought into the meme that culture was dumbing down our kids. Johnson does an effective job of shattering that myth. His well documented theory is that our brains are wired to explore – to figure out mystery and unravel complexity. In successful games and popular TV shows, we have been progressing into ever more complex game environments and more complex plot structures – from PacMan to Myst – from Dallas to 24.
I do not completely swallow his belief that the graphic violence of certain games does not anesthetize viewers to real violence – US Military Pschologist studies and those of many others would suggest otherwise. And many consider the survey he quotes from a Fox Butterfield article to be fundamentally flawed. (Was it not Twain quoting Disraeli who said "there are lies, damned lies and statistics.)
All that being said, Johnson’s book is an important read for parents, educators and media developers. And no doubt, my three children will be reading it as well along with the marketing departments of Microsoft XBox, Sony Playstation, Nintendo, EA and others.